Surebud.net Brings You Everything You Probably Hope to Know About NHL Realignment
Hockey fans, and I know there are two of you out there, this is basic stuff, don’t dwell long. For all you non puck-heads, the NHL proposed conference realignment last month. The plan calls for 4 conferences instead of 6 divisions and still requires Player Association approval. Based on our recent history with the NBA and NFL we know that should go smoothly. Here’s an overview, league reaction, some subtle suggestions, a map and a fight at the end so you know your time is not wasted.
What the H Happened?
The NHL went from a 2 conference with 3 divisions per conference system to a straight 4 conference set up. With unprecedented (and controversial) expansion in the past 20 years the league has attempted to overhaul the league’s setup. When Atlanta (not the Flames who moved to Calgary, but the Thrashers) moved to Winnipeg in the offseason the league was faced with a “South” division that included a team in Manitoba. Manitoba for the uninitiated is a province in Central/Western Canada and what’s more southern than that? Bring on the grits! The NHL being proactive (that’s sarcasm folks) jumped on the problem and decided that travel for a number of teams including the newly formed Winnipeg Jets was to costly. They got out graph paper, a number of colored pencils, a map and redrew the NHL landscape. Here’s what we’re left with:
· A home and home date with every team is guaranteed. The NHL was late to this party. The NBA for example gives every fan base the opportunity to boo Bron-Bron, Wade, and Bosh. Not so until now in the NHL. Idiocracy. If you want to grow the game branded stars like Crosby and Ovechkin need to make stops in every city. Now that will happen.
· Travel is more balanced as eastern teams with travel more, western teams less. Western teams under the old system were constantly on the road while the tightly clustered eastern squads lived in what was essentially a bus league.
· Current rivalries have been preserved. No one is changing from the East to the West largely because those monikers don’t apply, that being said the conferences now preserve current and developing rivalries for the most part. All the eastern Canadian teams are in the same conference as well as the east coast hotbeds of New York, New Jersey, Philly, and Pittsburgh.
· The playoffs (which are already pretty great) will be arguably better. Under the new system the first two rounds will be intraconference tilts. Then the NHL will reseed and the 4 winners will play in semifinals for a chance at the cup. I like this because like baseball this gives us a chance to have the two best teams meet in the finals. Whether that is Toronto and New Jersey or Detroit and San Jose.
· The NHL appears to be setting itself up for further expansion as the new system proposes two eight team conferences and two seven team conferences. I’m sure league was to even this out and expand to 32. The NHL should be setting itself up for retraction. Expansion fees are easy money for the league at could near $265 million. Here in lies the problem, right now Phoenix, Florida, Tampa and even “large” markets teams like the Islanders, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, and LA are losing money. Phoenix narrowly avoided relocation last year and the Gary Bettman’s legacy, southern expansion, is at best a wash at worst a financial anchor dragging the league down. Adding teams, whether Quebec City, Houston, Las Vegas or a second Toronto franchise, will add a quick expansion fee buck but the current problems remain.
· Florida and Tampa are now aligned with Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Boston instead of Carolina, Atlanta, and Washington. The extra travel will be an issue but then again Florida and Tampa have other issues. Plus is Florida and Tampa so no one really cares.
· The shoot-out. Though it has nothing to do with conference realignment as long as a glorified skills competition is used to decide games, a dark shadow falls upon the realm.
The Name Game
Now, let’s get to
the serious stuff, naming the new four conferences. For decades the NHL
had the greatest yet most confusing conference names in sport. In 1993
that all changed and the Campbell Conference with it’s Norris and Smyth
divisions disappeared and became the Western Conference with Central,
Northwest, and Pacific divisions. The Eastern Conference was of course
Wales with Adams and Patrick Divisions. Let’s get back there. The suggestions are many but I’ve come to consensus in my mind thanks to my brain thinking and have four names that honor the games past and also give rise to a bright future. Buckle up.
Not the band, the brothers from Slap Shot (greatest hockey movie and top 3 sports movie of all time). Once Newman picks the Hansons up at the bus stop cinematic genius ensues. Welcome Montreal, Boston, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, and Tampa.
In the third season (16th episode) of the Simpsons, Bart becomes involved in contrived love letter relationship with his teacher Edna Krabappel using a created alter ego named Woodrow. When Edna asks Woodrow for a picture, he throws in a photo of the Great Gordie Howe. If it’s good enough for Edna Krabappel it’s good enough for the NHL. Howe also has his own hat trick, a goal, an assist and a fight. Congrats Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Devils, Caps, and Hurricanes. Now earn it.
The Gordon Bombay.
Any male under the age of 35 remembers the Might Ducks trilogy. It was for many of us our only real exposure to hockey. Congrats Emilio, you just became famous again. Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis, Minnesota, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, and Winnipeg assume the flying V.
The Grim Reaper, Stu Grimson patrolled the ice for the Flames, Blackhawks, Ducks, Red Wings, Whalers, Hurricanes, and well just about every team in the league. In a game of tough guys Stu was the law giver. Drop your gloves Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim.
As promised, sanctioned on ice violence.